Virtual Interview Tips from Employers

woman talking in zoom interview

You’ve got a job interview. Fantastic. Oh no, it’s online. You’ll be in a box, looking at people in boxes. What do you do? How do you engage? What if your internet fails?

Don’t panic. You’re not alone. All job interviews for Auckland roles are being conducted remotely at the moment and this is likely to continue for some time yet.

In fact, as RUSH Digital talent and culture partner Rivers Rainey says, online interviews can work in favour of you, the applicant, because you are in your own space, not in an impersonal meeting room.

“You’re not having to try and get there early and you can set yourself up as comfortably as you can."

Here’s some advice on conducting online interviews from experienced Auckland recruiters, including Rivers, who are doing all their recruiting and interviewing graduates remotely. (Remember it is a unique situation for them as well as you.)

Opening moments

Set up in a quiet place and test that your camera is working and sound quality is good. Then check your screen is framing you correctly, says Spacetime Managing Director Alex Bartley Catt.

"Make sure there is enough light on your face so we can see you clearly. If I can see a bit of emotion on someone’s face, it makes it easier to create rapport, so having your face well-lit and showing enthusiasm is important. But be natural, try not to be stiff,” says Alex.

The Warehouse Group HR Lead, Talent Acquisition Kim Nicholas advises applicants to check the interviewing tool beforehand to make sure it works.
"And don't get into the waiting room too early. A couple of minutes is good," she says.

Auckland Museum Summer Studentship Programme and Research Manager Sarah Knowles says not to panic as you come into the Zoom meeting.not ready for virtual interview

“Don’t worry if get disconnected, you won’t get marked down if technology fails you,” says Sarah, adding that it is good to be prepared and have a cell phone number for someone on the interview in advance, so you can make contact and get back into the meeting.
“We are really compassionate about how different it is online. If you take it seriously and are diligent we will understand your nerves about doing it online!”

Her colleague, online cenotaph collection technician Madison Pine, who helps recruit for Auckland Memorial Museum’s student summership, advises applicants to be ready to be friendly.
“When you first log in, be ready to say hello, it makes quite a difference.”

Kim agrees it really helps if you immediately smile and engage. 
“At the start, offer small talk to make a connection, like ‘Isn’t it funny being online?’, or ‘How’s your day been so far?’. It helps you settle and helps everyone engage.”

Have prompts

Madison and Sarah encourage applicants to make the best of being in a Zoom interview and use notes.
“Zoom is quite handy because you can have notes to the side that aren’t noticeable to us,” says Madison.

To Sarah having notes is also a way to get the etiquette right.
“You can have a whole lot of prompts for yourself, like a reminder to say hello."

Prepare well

Kim strongly advises applicants to download and keep a copy of the job advertisement as a reference for prepping for an interview.
“Read it before the job interview so you know what they are looking for. Then, for example, if you’re asked about your strengths and weakness, you will be prepared to talk about the strengths you have and emphasising what they are after.”

Having the job advert or even the job description will also help you prepare for a question on your weaknesses - or areas that need developing - as Kim prefers to call them.
“You might refer to something in the job ad that you’re missing and say it is something I know I need to learn how to do and gain strategies on, but I'm open to learning new things.”

She adds it is all about being prepared. "If you know who you are meeting with for the interview, then look them up on LinkedIn to gain some insight into them."
Woman at online screen meeting

Be yourself

You have to be yourself, says Counties Manukau DHB Pacific Health Equity Manager Va Lutui.

“If someone is shy, we can tell by the way they’re talking - and that is okay. We will pick up on your energy and enthusiasm when you answer questions and from the examples you give of what you have done.”

EzyVet Talent Acquisition Specialist Alice Allfree will always ask; ‘Tell me about yourself, your study and what you do outside of uni?’. She wants you to share what you do in a genuine way.

“For some reason a lot of students freak out and only talk about uni, but I want to hear about community projects, part-time jobs, personal projects, things like that.”

Alice says students can overlook experiences they’ve had because they don’t think them relevant, such as part time work in retail.

“Yet if you’ve worked in retail over a Christmas period, chances are you’ve had very busy shifts dealing with restocking shelves, lots of queries, angry customers. I want to hear about your experiences because they tell me that you’ve started to learn how to navigate a work place.”

Alice adds that a reasonable employer isn’t expecting the world from a graduate but wants to know that you can work in a team and work with stakeholders/people you’ve never met before.

Silence is okay!

However don’t over engage! Va finds some applicants doing online interviews can struggle with the silence that comes after they answered a question because there are less physical clues, particularly if the interviewer/s are looking down and writing or answering emails.

“When we interview, we have to write down notes so after you have answered a question there might be a few seconds silence because we are writing. Please don’t keep talking. If you feel awkward, ask if your answer was okay or whether the interviewer would like to know more,” says Va.

It is important to remember that hiring managers are not out to trick you. They don’t expect answers to every question and they are happy to be asked for clarification. It is nerve wracking but there are no trick questions, nobody is trying to catch you out. They just want to get to know you.

But ask questionsQuestion mark and character

Always ask a question or two. If you prepare questions about information that comes up in the interview, don't get the interviewers to repeat themselves. Instead make sure you have a couple of other questions to fall back on.

“Always have something else ready, like, ‘What do you like about your job?’ ‘What do you see the upcoming challenges in the new normal?’ ‘What are some of achievements that you’d like to see in the next six months’?” suggests Kim.

Rivers points out that asking questions is your last chance to make a good impression and steer the interview in a positive direction.

“Sometimes questions asked by applicants will make me think again about them. So take the time to think of good questions.”

Rivers likes questions that reveal something about you and your mindset.
“Something like ‘Do you have a pool table?’ doesn’t tell me too much about you, but a question about the kind of career development that could be offered two or three years down the track tells me about your attitude to learning and your commitment. Good questions will leave a great last impression, regardless of what the interview is like.”

Want help to prepare?

AUT Employability Lab runs workshops to help students and graduates prepare for job interviews. Find out when they are running through Elab online. Not used Elab online before? It's easy - just click on 'Current Student', put your AUT name and password, and you're in and ready to access everything you need. If you are a graduate, you click 'Graduate' instead. Graduates can access our services for two years after graduation.

Looking professional online

For more information on looking professional online, read our tips about looking professional online

Written by AUT Employability and Careers writer Angela McCarthy

Cover image by MART PRODUCTION from PexelsQuestion mark image from Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay